sexta-feira, 30 de setembro de 2011

Now That is Justice! by Ron Nikkel

Now That is Justice!

By Ronald W. Nikkel

“Now that is justice,” I thought on hearing a news report about an arrogant and obnoxious young thug who attempted to rob a local shop only to find himself confronted by the shotgun-wielding owner. He didn’t get away with it this time!

“Now that is justice,” shouted voters who enthusiastically applauded a prominent political candidate as he defended his record of presiding over more executions in his state than any other state in recent history. That is “ultimate justice” continued the candidate in describing execution as the end of a justice process for heinous offenders. “This is what the people across this country want,” he declared.

“Now that is justice.” I joked with my golf partner as another player who had been giving me far too much unwanted advice hit a shot so badly that it made my errant shots look mild by comparison. “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy,” I continued sarcastically.

“Now that is justice,” we declare when a tyrant like Saddam Hussein is forced from his palaces and mansions to run for his life. “Death isn’t good enough for the likes of him,” say those who feel exploited and who suffered at the hands of his regime.

“Now that is justice,” I thought when a self-righteous and very spiritual friend of mine suddenly found himself in prison. His falseness and his greed were unmasked and, as sorry as I felt for him and his family, I confess to feeling a certain measure of satisfaction at his undoing – the consequence of his actions.

I have been thinking a lot about justice recently and I am convinced that what we call justice isn’t justice at all. In my country, where crime has been declining, political leaders are pursuing a populist “tough justice” agenda that includes longer prison time, reduced prisoner privileges, mandatory sentences, and the construction of more prisons. Describing the purpose of those initiatives, the Prime Minister said, “All these initiatives are designed to rebalance the scales of justice in Canada.” Presumably he believes that offenders are not being treated punitively enough, and his message resonates with a lot of people. Who among us doesn’t become just a bit angry and fearful in the onslaught of daily news highlighting stories of sexual assaults, armed robberies, gang violence, and fraudulent business schemes?

We all hunger for freedom and peace to be able to live in our communities without the threat of violence or fear of loss. No one, apart from the friends and collaborators of criminals, wants to see criminals profit by their deeds or get away with their offenses. Criminals should be apprehended and held responsible for their actions, and we can all agree that there must be consequences – criminals should pay for their crimes, they should be punished. Yet societies have been doing exactly this since the beginning of time. Some do it better than others by way of effective law enforcement, efficient legal-judicial processes, and tough sentencing. Yet in the end most people tend to think that justice is usually ineffective and not accomplished. We hunger for justice that is swift and sure and that really makes offenders suffer the consequences or punishment for their crimes. Punishment must follow crime as surely as water flows downhill. It is scriptural isn’t it – for does not the prophet Amos declare “Let justice roll down like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”?[i]

“Now that is justice,” many would say – when offenders cannot escape the consequences of their actions and punishment is terribly swift, and predictably sure, and commensurately severe. But as I think about crime and consequence and justice that delivers the results we really want, I sense that my personal satisfaction in consequence and punishment does not complete the picture. From a biblical perspective there seems more to justice than satisfying my thirst for offender judgment and my gloating over punitive consequences. Justice as a central theme of scripture goes beyond crime and punishment.

It was the old custom that the elders should sit at the gate to make out by judicial trial the quarrels of persons at strife, in order that they should never enter the city at variance and should dwell there in harmony. And hence the Lord says by the prophet, “Establish judgment at the gate.”[ii]


[i] Amos 5:24
[ii] Gregory the Great quoted in “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” Old Testament Volume XIV page 100 (ed. Thomas Oden, Inter Varsity Press, 2003)


Ronald W. Nikkel, PFI President & CEO
Ron has served as PFI's president since 1982. Widely recognized as an expert on criminal justice issues, Ron has visited more than 1,000 prisons in every region of the world and met with church and political leaders, as well as criminal justice officials.

Ron's new devotional book Radical Love in a Broken World, featuring daily meditations, is now available on as is his previous book Your Journey with Jesus.

To Learn more about Prison Fellowship International, visit

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Mensagem de boas-vindas

"...Quando um voluntário é essencialmente um visitador prisional, saiba ele que o seu papel, por muito pouco que a um olhar desprevenido possa parecer, é susceptível de produzir um efeito apaziguador de grande alcance..."

"... When one is essentially a volunteer prison visitor, he knows that his role, however little that may seem a look unprepared, is likely to produce a far-reaching effect pacificatory ..."

Dr. José de Sousa Mendes
Presidente da FIAR